Saturday, October 9, 2010

1980's "Movie" Flashback: Galaxy of Terror

I have a history with this film, as it was the last movie that I ever saw at a drive-in movie theater while I was stationed with the Air Force in North Dakota. It was part of a double feature, the other half of which remains forgotten.

Galaxy of Terror was a 1981 sci-fi/horror film produced by the legendary Roger Corman. It starred Edward Albert (Cabren), Erin Moran (Alluma), Robert Englund (Ranger), Ray Walston (Kore), Zalman King (Baelon), Grace Zabriskie (Capt. Trantor) and Sid Haig (Quuhod). The film was basically a low budget rip-off of Alien (1979), although it has gained a cult following as the first significant film with work by James Cameron and for it’s notorious worm rape scene.

Answering a distress call, the spaceship Quest is dispatched to a desolate planet called Morganthus by two mysterious figures (one known as "The Master") who are seen playing a strange game. Piloting the Quest is Captain Trantor, a survivor from a famous space disaster that left her psychologically scarred and unstable. As the ship arrives at Morganthus it suddenly veers out of control and plunges toward the surface, crash-landing there. After recovering from the landing, the crew prepare to search for survivors of the original mission. The teams psi-sensitive member, Alluma (Erin Moran) and the search team have significant problems with their leader Baelon, who is pushy, arrogant and unimpressed by Alluma's early inability to detect any life signs, however they eventually reach the other vessel and find evidence of a massacre. The highly-strung rookie, Cos becomes increasingly terrified and a short time later is killed by a grotesque creature.

This starts a chain reaction among the crew members after they discover a massive pyramid-shaped structure, which Alluma describes as "empty" and "dead". Their explorations of the pyramid leads to a series of deadly encounters with monsters and other strange beings that kill the crew members in exceedingly violent ways.

Eventually, only two members of the team, Ranger and Cabrin, remain alive after they realize that the pyramid itself is manifesting each persons deepest fears. Cabrin encounters the Master (Ray Walston), who had been masquerading as the ships cook, Kore. The Master explains that the pyramid was actually an ancient toy for the children of a long-extinct race, built in order to test their ability to control fear. Cabrin quickly kills the Master for allowing his colleagues to die, but is himself transformed into the new Master.

Galaxy of Terror was one of the earliest films for Oscar-winning director James Cameron, who served as Production Designer and Second Unit Director on this film. It was the second Corman feature film that Cameron worked as a crewmen on (the first being "Battle Beyond the Stars"; 1980). Cameron reportedly helmed the so-called "worm rape" scene, referenced above. Working on a tight budget, Cameron needed to figure out a way to get the maggots to wiggle sufficiently on cue, so he installed a metal plate onto which the maggots were placed, then ran an electrical current through the plate whenever filming began, causing them to move energetically about.

Of course, that sets up the infamous scene in which actress Taaffe O'Connell's character “Dameia” is raped and killed when one of the maggots grows into a giant worm created from her fears. O'Connell was nearly crushed by the one ton giant worm during the filming of the notorious rape scene and although she didn't object to doing nudity, she was apparently upset by the fact that both the set and the slime that she was coated with were freezing on the day of the shoot. It must also be mentioned that she used a body double for portions of the nudity featured in the scene which was considered too graphic, and the audio of O'Connell too intense, by the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system which initially gave the film an X-rating because of adult sexual content. The scene was then re-edited to tone down the sexual sounds O'Connell made during shooting in order to allow the film to be released to U.S. theaters rated-R. This allegedly angered producer Roger Corman, who ordered the cut pieces destroyed. Despite the editing, the scene was still found to be too explicit and it was completely omitted in some countries. Eventually, later VHS and DVD releases contained the scene in its final, R-rated version.

The production values on this B-movie are much better than last weekend's reviewed film, Inseminoid, and even with the few actors present who obviously have no talent the well established cast members at least make this film watchable. If you're a closet perv, the worm-rape scene is strangely provocative, largely due to how smoking hot Taaffe O'Connell was in the role of Dameia. Recommended!


Mykal Banta said...

Wow, how did I miss this film? I love Corman, too. I must find it now for nothing else if not the worm rape scene.

Great review!

Chuck Wells said...

Mykal, this movie was also released or has been referred to as "Quest", "Mindwarp: An Infinity of Terror" and "Planet of Horrors"; so while the worm-rape scene alone is worth seeking out, make sure you haven't actually seen it under another name.

Mykal Banta said...

Chuck: Thanks for the info! I havn't seen it under any name! This will make it easier to find.

PS: Word varification: Trist (swear to God)